Written by

Yanick Franche

co-written with Sébastien Ross

photo credit Sacha Bourque 

Our guest Biz takes a look at the issue

Hello Biz, very happy to have the pleasure of doing this question and answer session with you. Let's start with a light-hearted question for the master of the French language that you are, presenting us with your favorite word in our beautiful language and why?

The easy answer would be the dictionary, because it has them all, but that doesn't tell us much. Let's say I like the word sensually because I find it does. I find that the signifier and the signified meet and that it's sensual to say sensually, and then we need language to say it.

25 ans des FrancoFolies - 082.JPG
By Jean Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

You've always been a great defender of the language and of Quebec. What do you think of Quebec in 2021? Is it still possible to become a country in this system that's leaning towards globalization?

Yes, I think it's still possible. Gaston Miron used to say: "Tant que l'Indépendance n'est pas faite, elle reste à faire. Is it possible? Yes! Is it likely in the near future? I don't know. I honestly don't see it. But politics being what it is, there are plenty of Nostradamus who have thrown their crystal ball in the garbage can. Notably by saying that, on election night, there was no way Donald Trump could win the election, and he did. 

Anything can happen in politics, really anything. The lesson I've learned from history is that you can never take anything for granted in politics, and you can never say it'll never happen. Let's just say that in my day, when we started making music after the referendum, the independence project was supported by young people and a certain number of older people. Nowadays, it's mainly the older generation, the Baby Boomers, who support this project. As far as young people are concerned, at least the ones I'm in contact with because I'm lucky enough to have a girlfriend who's 30, and that's a blessing in disguise, including the chance to meet young millennials, I've noticed that it's not on their agenda, it's not what concerns them first and foremost, not in the way I was concerned in the early 2000s with Loco Locass and all that, it was a central issue in my life. It's a question that's still very important to me, I still think it's relevant to do Independence, for all sorts of reasons that are the same as what I thought before and other reasons have been added. 

I would say, however, that it's not true that young people are no longer sovereignists. A year ago, before the pandemic, I went to a gathering of young sovereignists, where I was the oldest, and I told them that I was pleased to be the oldest in a gathering of sovereignists, because it meant that there were young people who still believed in the idea. On the other hand, I think what we need to do is link the concerns of young people to the relevance of independence. For example, young people are very sensitive to ecological issues, so how can you call yourself an environmentalist if you live in an oil-rich Canada, a Canada whose economy is based on fossil fuels? It's not that we're better than people in the West, it's just that we have water instead of oil on our territory. 

I'm a great believer in the electric republic, which is a rather simplistic formula but, for me, indicates two things. Firstly, that we live in a true democracy, because we've got rid of the Queen, the monarchy that hangs over our heads at all times, and also that we live in a territory where we can make energy, I don't mean cleaner energy because energy always has a cost, but let's say less dirty. We could produce trains, cars and planes with aluminum, aluminum produced with electricity, we could electrify the whole of Quebec and even the whole of North-East America.

Incidentally, in my next novel, which I'm just finishing and which will be published in the fall, the character is a professor of literature who's about to publish a book, and that book is a dystopia, or a political utopia, which sets the scene for Quebec's independence in 2076, a hundred years after the election of the Parti Québécois. Quebec's independence is brought about by the northern Cree who, following a coup d'état, have taken possession of the dams and are now supplying the whole of North America in the East with energy, so independence is declared in Cree. 

This utopia shows that Independence can happen in ways we don't expect, and that we have to keep trying to convince people, but perhaps with new arguments, new players, new faces and new rhetoric.

Indeed, to achieve Independence, we need new ideas, in my opinion

Yes, and independence isn't a new idea, but just because it's old doesn't mean it's outdated. When we say that this idea is outdated, it's important to say that everyone who says that is independent. I challenge any federal politician to say: "You're right, Independence is outdated, we'll annex Canada to the U.S., it'll be simpler and we'll stop pretending we're independent from the U.S." And if we did that, there'd be a troll of Canadians extolling the virtues of Independence.

Maybe we should change our strategy too, maybe we should put the Canadian constitution, which governs us every day, to a referendum vote. It's possible that there are things in there that really don't suit us, such as the Indian Act. After that, the question "Do you accept this constitution or not? If we say yes, we sign it and that's it, but if we say no, okay, but what do we do now? Do we get another one? Share a patent that satisfies us a little more? A republic with regional representation? Represent the 11 First Nations of Quebec in Parliament? All this might be possible in a Quebec republic, but it's impossible in a Quebec that remains a province.

Biz 2020.jpg
By Thekidpossum, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

What do you think of the Quebec government's handling of the pandemic? What about the Canadian government's handling of the pandemic, and the reaction of our fellow citizens?

I wouldn't want to be in government right now. In fact, I'd never want to be a politician anyway, not in normal times, let alone in pandemic times. Anyone who tells us that Legault and Trudeau are happy with the pandemic because they want to control us hasn't looked them in the face. It's not true that they're happy with the pandemic, it's not true that they're happy to do their job in this context. 

Honestly, I think everyone is doing what they can, really. On the other hand, we quickly reach the limits of the federation when we realize that the Legault government, at least in March, insisted on the importance of closing the borders quickly, and that Ottawa delayed so long before doing so, ''Ben là bonhomme, tu n'es pas maître dans ta maison quand nous y sommes''. As we've seen with the purchase of vaccines, in the end, we're just teenagers in our bedroom, we're not the ones who decide when we have to do the dishes, when we have to take out the garbage! 

It's all very well for Justin Trudeau to lecture Legault on the management of CHSLDs when health transfers have been cut for 50 years, from 50% to 20%. But before you start lecturing people on how to manage things, first deal with what belongs to you, i.e. prisoners, and what falls under your jurisdiction at the federal level, such as aboriginals, and secondly, give the money to the provinces so that they can properly manage their healthcare systems.

I'm always amazed to see Justin Trudeau begging, it's like Canadians begging not to travel. It's the first time I've ever seen a politician beg people not to travel. It's like the police begging people not to run a red light. So change the law, ban flights, close the airports, that'll solve the begging and that'll be that.

In general, in the federation, it's always the same thing. The federal government sets itself up as the father of the family, while the provinces do the dirty work. The federal government lacks the budget to do the real hands-on work with citizens, and it's the provinces that have it, in education, health and transportation among others, while the federal government is always trying to convince us that it knows best how things work, and that we should listen to it. For me, if we needed another reason, this pandemic illustrates the relevance of Independence to managing how things work within our borders.

The pandemic took up a lot of space in 2020, but there were other significant events too. Which ones have had the biggest impact on you? Why or why not?

In the course of the year, from a social point of view, we have no choice but to address the death of George Floyd in the United States and the great planetary movement that followed. There's been a realization on a Western scale that there really are problems. Of course, in the U.S. it's blatant, but I think every society has to look at itself, but we have to be careful not to import the problems and ideological frameworks of the U.S., because you can do it like a colonized person, but you're not doing things properly when you do that. On the other hand, it's not by saying "We're not the same as in the United States" that we're exempt from examining this issue.

I've been rapping for 20 years and I've got Haitian friends, African friends who are more disgusted by the police than I am, and they're no meaner than I am. Friends who are refused housing because of their accent, that not only concerns me, it makes me... , it hurts me, in fact.

So, the worldwide awareness of the racism that exists, which is real, I'd say, and also the fed-up feeling of those who suffer it, seemed obvious to me.

This happened this summer with the blacks and this autumn, Mme Echaquan in Joliette, for the Amerindians. We discovered in Quebec - and I knew this because it's a world I know a little about, or at least a little better than most Quebecers, but I knew it - that there are natives who don't want to go down to the hospital because they're afraid they won't come back, and they're also afraid of being disgusted and judged. 

I met Carol Dubé, Mrs. Echaquan's widower, during the filming of a show, and I got to know this man, an extraordinary guy who did me a world of good to see how, despite everything, he can be serene, very strong and very funny, despite what happened. He talked to me a lot, had me autograph one of his objects and we really got on together. And I thought: "I'm part of the gang that killed, that sickened his wife to her last breath in total indignity and the guy chills with me, he's relaxed and he's funny. Me, let's say my girlfriend went to Toronto and died in a hospital being called a "Frog", I'm not sure I'd feel like "chillin'", that much, with Canadians. I took away a lot from that meeting and that discussion.

This situation is complicated because it's a question of jurisdiction. Technically, Quebec doesn't have a Ministry of Amerindian Affairs; that's a federal responsibility. On the other hand, the healthcare system is Quebec's, but clearly, it's not right that people should be afraid to go to hospital, whether it's the fear of being sickened or the fear of losing their lives. I think there's been a realization, on our scale in Quebec, of the same kind of resonance as George Floyd in the United States. Maybe we can learn from it, so that at least those deaths weren't in vain.

Indeed, many people have opened their eyes to what people of color and autotochnones can experience.

That's right! I have an actor friend, a young man who played in the film "The Fall of Sparta" that I wrote, a great guy with whom I've kept in touch, and he said to me: "After George Floyd's death, I felt that people looked at me differently in the street. I felt smiles, I felt a kind of consideration that wasn't on the same scale before. I think there's a before and an after, and despite these dramatic incidents, there are positive things that can come out of all this.

Otherwise, it's all for nothing, and that's when it becomes alienating, when it becomes frustrating, and when people get angry, which is legitimate, and you never know how that anger will come out. Collectively, when anger takes over, it leads to the invasion of the Capitol, to a loss of meaning, to the failure of democracy when violence takes over.

That said, it's sometimes necessary. We can also look at the struggle of the F.L.Q. (Front de Libération du Québec), and how it was carried out, inspired by the world's greatest revolutionary movements. I saw the film ''Les Rose'', and I knew about the October Crisis, but I saw images of the endemic poverty of French-speaking Quebecers, before the Quiet Revolution, and when you see those images, you understand why we get so disgusted with a system that dominates us, a systemic oppression in this case that clearly applied to Quebecers and that, even in the sociodemographic indicators of the turn of the century, was comparable to African countries in terms of longevity, infant mortality and various other indicators, so when you see that, when you remember it, you understand the F.L.Q.. Today, James Cross is dead, but he's the only one who called the Felquists revolutionaries and not terrorists, perhaps because he, from his position as a privileged British diplomat, knew the imperial dynamic, which he was able to recognize in societies when people were sickened enough and had to revolt to get out of it.

To help lift your spirits in these difficult times, especially during this pandemic, what activities do you do to recharge your batteries and clear your mind?

Normally, I played field hockey in a garage league and practiced karate, but at the moment, we can't practice our sports anymore. I moved in August and now live in ''Petit Laurier'', and there's a skating rink two blocks from my house, so as soon as there's ice and I have half an hour to myself, I'm off to the rink. My son is 14 and "zooms out" all day for school, but at lunchtime, we eat in a hurry and go for half an hour to shoot pucks - it feels so good! You're so in the moment when you're doing sport, field hockey in particular, it's such an extraordinary sport for me, I love playing field hockey.

Otherwise, I'm lucky enough to be able to enjoy my girlfriend's cottage up north. We often go into the woods and it's good because you don't feel the confinement of the forest, there's no curfew for the owls, there's no anxiety. Especially in the spring, when I was confined for the first time in March, it affected me a lot psychologically, and when I was up north, in the woods, I felt it was really more relaxed, whereas in the city, there was a lot of tension because there was no one in the streets, we weren't used to it and didn't know what to do. 

Of course, I'm writing a novel right now, so pandemic or not, I'd be sitting at home, all alone, typing on my computer. I'm privileged because this pandemic affects me much less professionally, and even psychologically, than many others for whom I have enormous sympathy. People, friends who have lost restaurants, bars and businesses and no longer know what to do, young people who enter Cégep with no initiation, who have never visited their Cégep, it's dramatic, especially for the youngest too. I have a lot of sympathy for the stress and frustration that this episode can bring. 

Personally for me, as a writer, writing is a confinement, a solitary confinement and you're in your head. This also brings up the power of reading, of art in general, but reading in particular, it's an escape, you can really get out of your head and there are no more limits in literature, you can go, for example, with Isaac Asimov into the future or into another galaxy, literally with reading. There are no more pandemics when you write and when you read.

Speaking of activities, you're a big fan of the Canadiens and the Patriots. Who are your favourite athletes right now and, all eras considered, who would be your favourites in these two sports?

At the moment, I really enjoy watching the Chiefs, but I've loved them since the 90s, and in particular with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who used to help out, it's great to see a Quebecer on the line, who's also been to medical school and has a good head on his shoulders, he's a great role model. Then there's Patrick Mahomes, at quarterback, who dazzles me virtually every game. He's both a glacier and a volcano, alternately calm and enthusiastic when he needs to be, he's quite a general. His father was a shortstop, so he's learned to throw sideways, laterally from one edge or the other, left-handed or right-handed, he's part of a new generation of quarterbacks who are much more mobile, much harder to catch, like Lamar Jackson too. Before, you'd take two or three steps out of your pocket and it was risky, but not for them, I'm very impressed.

In field hockey, I don't understand how Connor McDavid can be so fast. It's like he's in the Matrix, everyone around him is too slow, and those who are slow are National Hockey League players, whereas he looks like he's in another league. As someone who skates while dragging a piano, I don't understand how he can be so fast.

As for "all eras", it depends a lot on what you're looking at, but for me, from a point of view where sport is a social-cultural and even political phenomenon for Quebec, it's Maurice Richard, he's a very important symbol, an athlete who drags a people with him when he's in his sport and on whom a people leans, projects itself. When Maurice scored a goal, it was more than a piece of rubber that went between two posts, it was an entire people regaining a certain dignity. You see, sport is important! Now, of course, people will say that everything's changed, that it's not the same, that athletes are mercenaries and all that, but there was still a little bit of us when Laurent won the Superbowl, and everyone projects themselves onto larger-than-life models. 

Sport is very simple: you win or you lose, there's no ambiguity, you score a goal or you don't, it's that it puts symbols within everyone's reach that are otherwise more complex. Political struggles, social struggles, social class are sometimes more abstract, but here they become extremely concrete. Maurice counted, we won, Boston was eliminated, it's easy to understand and fun to watch.

I watched the movie "Maurice Richard" with my daughter, who was like 5 at the time, and she understood. Maurice fights there and why the referee holds him back when he gets hit by the guy from NY. He's not the best field hockey player, Maurice Richard; for the best field hockey player, you'd have to go with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, those were very good field hockey players, but the most significant or important athlete for Quebec, I'd go with Maurice Richard.

To be successful, do you think the Montreal Canadiens should have more Francophones?

I don't know about success, even though the last time the Canadiens were successful, in '93, there were 11 Francophones on the team, but it's risky to make a rule of three like that because sport doesn't obey those laws. On the other hand, I'd like more Francophones to explain to me why the Canadiens don't win when they lose. We're always being told to pick the best players, but you picked the best players and didn't win, so pick your gang, pick your gang. I don't think Jonathan Drouin wants to be the Maurice, the standard-bearer of an entire nation, but if there are 4-5 of them sharing the job, going on "Tout le monde en parle" and different shows like that, it's going to be less of a burden for each of them.

I was reading recently that there are only 2 Quebec goalies in the national league right now, whereas there used to be a troll of them. Quebec used to be a breeding ground for goalies, but for all sorts of reasons, that's changed, and the Patrick Roy effect has well and truly disappeared. I love the Canadiens, they're my hometown team, but I always connect more when it's a successful Quebecer, that's for sure, that's normal. Like, for example, a lot of black people got interested in field hockey when P.K. Subban arrived in Montreal, they identified with P.K. and that's totally normal. Another example, for women, there's Kim Clavel, she's not a pioneer, but they can say she's really good and motivating.That doesn't mean that I, as a white person, can't love P.K. Subban or that, as a man, I can't encourage Kim Clavel, but it just means that when it's someone in your gang, someone who looks like you, it's normal to identify with him.

Let's talk about your youth. Did your parents listen to music often?

In my day, it was the time of 45s and 33s, so when I was young, music was fragile, you had to be careful not to scratch the records or break the needle, and you had to be careful not to jump too hard when you danced, because that made the music jump. That's all gone nowadays, of course. My parents listened to a lot of music and, when I was about 7 or 8 years old, they bought themselves a very big sound system, they had invested 2000$, which was a lot of money for the time, so we had the Cadillac of sound systems accompanied by a troll of vinyl records like Dire Straits, Michael Jackson, Culture Club, in fact all the music of the 80s, but my parents also listened to French music records, like Léo Ferré among others, that was pretty much what was playing.

Did this have an influence on you? Is it what pushed you towards a musical/artistic career?

Of course, everything that happens in our childhood has an influence on us. My parents listened to a lot of folk music too, like "The Devil's Dream" or stuff like that, and I'm sure that also had an influence on me. I'd have to do some psychoanalysis to really determine the influence, but yes, I'm sure it did. My parents were teachers and my father was a literature teacher at Cégep, so that also had an influence on me, in terms of language and so on, an influence from both my parents but particularly from my father.

Can you give us a nice memory of you and your parents' music?

I have a very vivid memory, I can't remember exactly how old I was, but it was the year of the release of Dire Strait's "Brothers in Arms" album. (Editor's note: ''Brothers in Arms'' was released on May 1, 1985, so Biz was 12 or 13 years old)I'm in bed in my room, my parents are having a party with lots of friends wearing beards and ponchos, and everyone's smoking. So, the "Sultans of Swing" song comes on, I get up to go to the bathroom or whatever, and all this gives me a memory of gentlemen and ladies having fun, the living room is full of smoke, but what kind of smoke I've never known. As soon as I hear that song again, it always gives me a very vivid memory, I'm instantly teleported back to my childhood, exactly like Proust's Madeleine except that, in my case, it's not gustatory, it's auditory.

When you were a child, what was the very first album you bought/received?

I'll always remember the very first album I ever bought. It was vinyl, 33 rpm, and it was Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind. I didn't even know if the music was any good, but the cover spoke to me like a curse. I listened to that vinyl excessively often on my parents' good sound system.

It's said that music is often a form of therapy for many people. When you were a teenager, did it often allow you to escape?

Yes, it was very important. Music says it all! You press "Play" and it tells the world how you feel. You listen to Bob Marley, so you're fine; you listen to Metallica, so maybe you're a bit criss-cross. When you're a teenager, me anyway, I had a kind of inner rage that I didn't know where it was coming from or how to get it out, but "Metal" helped me a lot with that, and I also started playing drums in Secondary 4, so it was downright physical, a physical frustration... The harder I hit, the better it felt, the louder it made... 

My mother was our family's minister of culture, and she paid for all the tickets my brother and I wanted to see, so I went to see Metallica, etc. At one point, my mother said to me: There's a gentleman with glasses playing the piano at the "Petit Champlain" and I'll pay for the ticket", because the minister had the right to make subsidies, but there were also ministerial prescriptions, so in those cases, I was kind of obliged to go, but nobody, none of my friends, wanted to go with me, because it wasn't very popular in high school 5, a gentleman with glasses playing the piano, and in the end, it was Richard Desjardins, the author of "Tu m'aimes-tu". That show really struck a chord with me, because I was like "OK, we can do that with words", "That could be a song", and that influenced me to start rapping. 

With Richard Desjardins, the question of language level is unmistakably Québécois, clearly, but he uses Latin words and even, on occasion, ancient references, very elaborate words or old Anglicisms from miners in Rouyn-Noranda. He navigates the language, he can talk about love, about anything and everything... The most beautiful love songs, he's the one who made them, and the greatest political song, "Les Yankees", he's also the one who made it. All this coexists in a perfectly coherent way, and that too has influenced me a great deal.

Composition is an art. Did you start at a young age? Did you start by doodling on scraps of paper?

I mentioned the Richard Desjardins show, and it planted a seed in my desire to compose, but it started to germinate later. Of course, I already had the urge to write, because by the age of 8, I'd written a little book on dinosaurs, while in Secondary 1, I was composing Baudelairean pseudo-poems and in Secondary 3, I'd written a bad medieval fantasy novel, so I've been writing for a very long time, but composing for rap started in 1995 with Batlam in Quebec City. 

Batlam came to us, between the Christmas and New Year vacations, with a text he'd written. We'd been listening to a lot of American rap as well as MC Solaar, who convinced us that we could rap in French and in a literary way like him, because MC Solaar has a lot of literary references. Batlam and I, who were literary men, realized that we didn't have to have a gun and sell drugs to rap. Batlam showed me his text, I added a few things and that's how we started.

If you compare the music of the different decades, which do you think is the most authentic?

I think they're all authentic insofar as the music represents the era, it embodies the era in which it was created, so in that sense it's authentic. If a piece of music doesn't seem authentic to us, it's perhaps because the era itself isn't authentic. 

Of course, when you think of rock, the 70s were great years, there were some great things, they were talked about a lot and mythologized, but for me, from a qualitative point of view, the 90s is the period that interested me most musically. When Nirvana arrived with "Smells like teen spirit", they dynamited "glam metal". You couldn't do metal with spandex, "Spray-Net" and lipstick like Motley Crue, it was just not possible. I wasn't a big Nirvana fan, I didn't listen to their music, but I had a lot of respect for everything they stood for, and I understood why so many people liked it. There were other names that made their mark in those years too, like Pearl Jam and, here in Quebec, Jean Leloup, Les Colocs, Les Vilains Pingouins... Whereas the 80s for me were weaker musically and creatively.

There was also rap from the '90s and, as someone who really liked rap, I found that what was being done in those years was very creative and very solid.

Let's make a quiet transition to the current Biz, I'm taking advantage of this because you were talking about Batlam earlier.Since Manifestif came out in 2000, which I bought on a street corner in Montreal (and, if I remember correctly, from one of you directly), Loco Locass has come a long way. What's next for the band in the near and/or more or less distant future?

The short answer is nothing, because as far as I'm concerned, we're retired as a band. Also because, on the one hand, we don't have any new songs in the pipeline and, on the other, I have no intention of making another album or another song. 

On the other hand, yes I say I don't intend to, but I would never say ''Fontaine, je ne boirais pas de ton eau'' because, when we released our last toune ''Le Clan'' in 2016, I was coming back from a promotional trip to Europe to talk about one of my books, I was coming back and I considered myself a writer but I opened my email box and there were Batlam's verses and Chafiik's ''beat'' and I said: ''Oh! What's that? A new flow, a new sound, new words, I e-mailed Batlam and asked, "Aye, is there a 'Seize barres' left on the toune, because I'd like to be on it? I regurgitated my verse in practically half an hour, it was really fast and, afterwards, we worked on that toune in the same way as we worked on our tunes on "Manifestif", i.e. the three of us together in the studio rolling the beat and intervening on each other's lyrics. Batlam also wrote another verse during this time in the studio. So, even at that point, I'd more or less pulled out all the stops, but another song came along, but ONE song, not an album.

You know, rap has changed a lot. My fourteen-year-old son listens to a lot of American rap, and now he's the one who keeps me up to date with what's going on. As for Quebec rap, it's become stronger, there are a lot of players and there's a movement now that's real, that more or less existed in our time. So, I can't see how we could come back to rap, at the age we are and with what rap has become, without sounding like old men rambling in some way. Because if we continue to do what we did before, we're not evolving and we're stuck in the past, but if we try to do what's being done now, we look like old gentlemen who put a skullcap on backwards and wear knee-length jeans to greet the young, so, one way or another, it doesn't work. Anyway, I'm speaking for myself, not for Batlam and Chafiik, my creative urge doesn't come out in rap, it comes out in script, it comes out in prose. In the past, as soon as I turned on the tap, it was exclusively rap that came out, but now when I turn on the tap, it's prose, literature that comes out.

Despite your "retirement" from Loco Locass, do you have a musical style you'd like to explore, either on your own or with other artists?

No, because once you've tasted the pleasure of making sandcastles by the sea, it's hard to go back to making them in a sandbox. That's my comparison between literature and rap: once you can tell your story over 300 pages, it's hard to get back to 3 minutes. 

In the end, I think that rap in my life - I'm not at the point of taking stock, but this is what I can see when I look back on it - has been a parenthesis in my life, a long and rich parenthesis. When I say that, I'm not trying to minimize or denigrate this parenthesis, not at all, but it's an accident for someone like me. I wasn't a musician, I wasn't a melodist, I loved music but I didn't understand it, and even today, I'd never consider myself a singer, I can't sing, I'm no good, I've got no breath and I can't hold a note properly whereas with rap, it was perfect! I'm not a singer, but I've got things to say and I've got a beat, but what rap was all about was writing. With rap, there are so many words that you can write more than when you write rock, for example. That's why we got into rap in a certain way, we listened to a lot of it and we had things to say, we could have done theater too, we could have done lots of other things but that's it.

Personally, I devoted twenty years of my life to rap full time, at least at the beginning certainly full time, and I have absolutely no regrets about what we did with Loco Locass, nothing, but I've moved on like a painter who has a blue period, for example, and simply moves on.

You said that it's more your son who tells you what's going on in the rap world, but what do you think of emerging Hip Hop/Rap music in Quebec and its place in the world?

I'm looking at it from a distance, like a kind of uncle watching his nephews and their friends have a good time. There are some good things, on a formal level, I'd say, but that's what I find interesting. With social networks, the way people put themselves on stage, market themselves, I find that there's a lot of creativity, especially in times of pandemic, I'm thinking of Fouki, among others, there are several who have made albums. If we were 25 years old during the pandemic, Loco Locass would certainly have released a record, maybe not because we were composing quietly, but we would have worked, that's for sure.

Apart from field hockey, music and literature, do you have any other great passions? If so, which one?

Before the pandemic, there was karate, which was good for my body and mind, and I can't wait to get back into it, but of course I also love cinema, both watching it and writing for it. I've never been good at drawing, but I'm interested in painting. It seems when you're not good at something, it's impressive to see the talent of those who excel at it. It's the same thing with field hockey, I play but I'm not good at it, and when I see someone who's really good at it, it amazes me. 

When it comes to literature, I'm not saying I'm good at it, but you have to get up early to impress me. I'm talking about style, I'm very picky about style when it comes to literature. No matter how good a story you tell me, if you don't have style, I'm not going to listen. To put it simply, style in literature is like the style of a comedian. Louis-José Houde could show you the phone book and you'd pee your pants; there's nothing interesting in the phone book, but he's got his own style, his own rhythm, his own flow, his own mimicry, that's style, and it's the same thing in literature. It's not what you tell me that interests me, it's how you tell me.

You've always been involved with young people, whether through youth camps, the youth portrayed in your novels, or the music video and song "M'accrocher" by Loco Locass, which is a message about the pain and distress of our young people. What have you tried to bring them through your experiences with them?

Of course, my relationship with youth has evolved as I've gotten older, because when I started out, I was young myself, and what's more, youth is relative. For example, my 14-year-old son is young, while his 10-year-old sister is the young one. In the beginning, the young people at the Loco Locass shows were my age, so we were with them among them, and what I was trying to bring to them was nothing other than myself, in the hope that it would touch them and that they would feel challenged by what I had to say. 

At summer camp, parents entrusted us with their most precious possessions, so we were out in the woods keeping them occupied. When it rained, you'd get out a rock, a stick and you'd have to invent a game, it's always in creative mode. It wasn't so much what I could bring to them as what I learned from the experience. I worked there in my first year of CEGEP, I was rather misanthropic as a person at the end of secondary 5, beginning of CEGEP and, after a summer at summer camp, I had become a humanist. You don't count your hours of sleep when you've got kindergarteners, and if someone's scared in the middle of the night, you get up and go to help them. That lets you get out of yourself and think about others.

Now, I have children myself and it's a different relationship, because there's a question of authority, but for young people in general, I always try to remain curious about what interests them, what makes them tick, why they talk like that and why they're interested in that, for example. I try to understand them instead of judging them, but I'd say that the further you get away from them in age, the harder it is to understand them. The bigger the gap between generations, the more we tend to judge each other, which isn't always a good thing. 

When you're part of a generation, you have a kind of class solidarity but you don't realize it, like in the old days with Loco Locass, it was "Free us from the Liberals", we were the ones who were right, period, and the others who didn't agree with us, they were in the field. As you get older, a little more nuance sets in, and that's what I liked when, in 2012, we accompanied the young people on their strike, even though it wasn't my strike. I hadn't been at university for 20 years, but I had a lot of fun being with them and accompanying them in their fight. I think that when you're around young people, you don't age as quickly, you don't become stupid as quickly.

You were talking about social networks earlier. What's your relationship with them?

I don't really know, I've got one foot out the door and the other in. In fact, my girlfriend's always nagging me about my Instagram account, she thinks it's a total loser. I have one, but I only have 1,200 followers, I don't publish ben ben and I've never been on Facebook. I signed up in 2012, exactly during the student strike. At first, it was to promote our record that was about to be released and, finally, during the strike, it was very useful and very interesting to be on Twitter.

What I like are words, little aphorisms, little reflections, and Instagram is more about photos, and I'm less interested in taking pictures of my salad. But that said, I don't judge, or much less since I've been dating my girlfriend, those who do, there's a form of aestheticism there, there's even a form of dandyism. Baudelaire's Instagram account might have had "stories" with paintings by Eugène Delacroix, hashish toast and dandies in top hats, I'm not judging those who are on there but except that "there's something a bit vain about it, I'd rather work on a novel than work on a tweet.

At the same time, I say that but you can always convert your social network subscribers, my girlfriend has quite a few subscribers and, sometimes, she receives gifts, patents, it's a bit like a horse, it depends on who's riding it, what you're doing with it. But I'm still a bit dubious, I really appreciate the real thing, real contacts, I think there's a dark side to social networking, so when you connect people together who aren't doing well, that too gives you the invasion of the Capitol. 

At the moment, there are too many people with nothing to do and who are unhappy, we have to take care of that, we have to get people working again, going out to bars, getting drunk with their friends and going out, seeing people again. We're not cut out for the life we're leading at the moment, we realize that and social networks exacerbate that, so we have to be careful, so sometimes I try to take a little break myself.

Since the 60s, technology has been making leaps and bounds in many spheres of our society. Does this frighten or excite you?

I would tend to say that whatever happens from a technological point of view, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the nature of humanity is still human contact. I don't think we could succeed in embodying humanity if we were each in our own apartment, connected to computers. I don't think that's the aim of the human species, I don't think it's made for that, unless we evolve, unless our brains evolve over millions of years, a bit like Houellebecq thought in "The possibility of an island".

For example, I don't have a car in Montreal, but I can get a "Communauto" remotely with my phone, my smoke detector is connected to my cell phone and if I'm not at home and my guy is cooking noodles and it starts ringing, I'll know immediately thanks to my phone.... I wouldn't go back to living in the Middle Ages, I really wouldn't, but like I said, we have to get back to basic field hockey, and basic field hockey means having fun with our friends, tripping, accomplishing ourselves, personally fulfilling ourselves in meaningful projects and, ultimately, because we're in society, we can't get pissed off at others.

I'm always fascinated by how mean you can be, how you can say or write things that are so mean and violent that you'd never do them. When I was in Loco Locass, I had a file where I archived the death threats I received, and there was no Twitter or anything back then, just e-mails, because if we'd done everything we've done in the same way, with all the social networks we have today, we'd probably have received a lot more. I never had a bad experience in the real world, not even someone who came up to me and said: "You're a jerk, I love the Liberals, I'm going to punch you in the face", but on the Internet, it happened regularly. How you can send that out into the universe or to someone, knowing that you'd never say it to their face, is beyond me, this, either unconsciousness, cowardice or pure wickedness...

What I like are words, little aphorisms, little reflections, and Instagram is more about photos, and I'm less interested in taking pictures of my salad. But that said, I don't judge, or much less since I've been dating my girlfriend, those who do, there's a form of aestheticism there, there's even a form of dandyism. Baudelaire's Instagram account might have had "stories" with paintings by Eugène Delacroix, hashish toast and dandies in top hats, I'm not judging those who are on there but except that "there's something a bit vain about it, I'd rather work on a novel than work on a tweet.

At the same time, I say that but you can always convert your social network subscribers, my girlfriend has quite a few subscribers and, sometimes, she receives gifts, patents, it's a bit like a horse, it depends on who's riding it, what you're doing with it. But I'm still a bit dubious, I really appreciate the real thing, real contacts, I think there's a dark side to social networking, so when you connect people together who aren't doing well, that too gives you the invasion of the Capitol. 

At the moment, there are too many people with nothing to do and who are unhappy, we have to take care of that, we have to get people working again, going out to bars, getting drunk with their friends and going out, seeing people again. We're not cut out for the life we're leading at the moment, we realize that and social networks exacerbate that, so we have to be careful, so sometimes I try to take a little break myself.

About the media's current relationship with artists. Do you think there's been enough support in recent years?

I think that with social networks, artists have taken over their own marketing. There are fewer and fewer intermediaries between fans and artists, and that's a good thing. Now, the music business model is not in favor of artists, absolutely not. Everyone gives their music away, which makes no sense from an economic point of view. But everybody's doing it, and I don't blame young people at all for doing it, because music has become a business card for inviting people to go to shows and buy jerseys, that's the way it is. The decline of traditional media is accompanied by a rise in promotion using social networks on the part of artists, you have to put more and more time into it and it's very demanding to interact directly with fans because, the slightest time you do something (for example: "Aye six months ago in Val D'or, I said Hi and you didn't reply"), fans have the impression that you belong to them or that you owe them something on an emotional level. Like me, yes, I owe something to my fans on an artistic level, certainly, but I don't owe them anything on a personal level because I don't expose anything of my personal life or, in any case, so little.

As for the poor traditional media, when "La Presse" is struggling to make ends meet, we can't expect critical journalists to do the job. What's going to happen is that influencers are going to be begging for tickets to shows, and there are going to be artists giving away tickets in exchange for a good word on Twitter or a photo on Instagram, we're no longer in the business of criticism. Critique, that kind of critical work, doesn't exist in Quebec anymore.

Since you mention that artists are giving their music away for free now, do you think the remuneration from digital music services like Spotify is high enough in relation to the number of listens?

Oh no, well no! Compared to the profits it generates, it's clearly not enough! If Spotify were to say, "Look, we're coming up kif-kif, we can't really pay more than that." Okay, maybe, but it's just that it's a model that's practically based on the exploitation of workers. The labor force, to put it like Marx, are the ones who benefit the least from the spin-offs of the economic activity that is due to that labor force, which is still inconceivable. How is it that the big Internet providers don't give back more than that to artists, given that it's these artists who provide the content?

There's another problem, too, because nowadays, any guy who plays guitar or revs tunes and falls is going to generate millions of clicks, which means lots of money. It's not even just the real artists who generate clicks, it's open to just about everyone now. That said, when your song - I'm thinking of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" - gets a lot of airplay and generates ten thousand piastres for millions of views and listens on the various platforms, there's someone who's pocketing too much and someone who's pocketing too little, the pie is what it is, but it's very badly distributed. 

I'd like to thank you for all the time you've given me, but before we part, here's a bonus question from a fan, Roxanne Trépanier, who'd like to know if the song and video "Secondaire" are based on a true story?

Unfortunately for Chafiik and me, it was quite autobiographical. The knickers on the floor on the first day, that's what happened. At the time, of course, it's a tragedy, you want to change schools and all that, but over time, you laugh about it, have fun with it and make a song out of it!

That's right, it's a great life experience!

The beauty of art! What can you do with manure? Grow flowers on it! (Laughs) That'll be the last word, manure! In the sense of, This joint, you should have ''Manure'' it all the way! (Laughs)

>See also

Biz's work as an author was rewarded with the Children's Book Prize from the Montreal Libraries and the Youth Prize from Quebec Booksellers in 2012 for “The Fall of Sparta” as well as the France-Québec Prize in 2015 for “Mort -Ground". His latest work “Les abysses” is his seventh book published by his publisher Leméac. http://www.lemeac.com/auteurs/163-biz-.htm